dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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No Collusion! Explained

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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There was no collusion. There couldn’t have been. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin wanted to embarrass and weaken Hillary Clinton, but in different ways. Putin wanted Trump to win the presidency. Trump wanted to narrowly lose.

Putin aimed to weaken America and its democratic ideals as much as possible. He knew he could make the democratic world order quiver if not collapse under the weight of a chaotic and acrimonious election.

Trump saw nothing wrong with participating, so long as it boosted his own celebrity and wealth. He planned to keep his day job as a real estate mogul, a television star, and a spokesperson for white male victimhood. He never wanted to live in the White House.

Public testimony from Trump’s sycophants paint a clear picture of a man who launched a political campaign to burnish his brand. He picked his sidekicks as costars in his reality show, never expecting they would have any real responsibilities.

Everyone thought Hillary Clinton would win the race. Trump cast himself as the star of the Washington Generals, losing to the Harlem Globetrotters, but just barely. All that mattered was that the crowd got a good show.

But then something went wrong. Thanks to the Electoral College and Democratic overconfidence, Trump became the dog that caught the car. Trump’s Plan B became Plan A.

Putin’s feigned interest in a Trump Tower Moscow would have to wait a few years. Putin must have snickered at Trump’s proposal of the penthouse suite as a kickback. Trump couldn’t understand that Putin’s graft was on a much grander scale.

Putin may have pretended to like the idea of Ivanka’s spa catering to the ultra-wealthy who suspiciously hang around the Russian Kremlin. It was only fair. After sending Russian cronies to Florida and New York to launder their money with overpriced real estate, the Trump family wanted their turn to hide its wealth from tax authorities.

It was as if Putin promised to sell Trump a condo with private access to all the up-and-comers in the neighborhood. Only after the sale was completed did Trump realize his unit had no windows at all, but shared a thinly insulated wall with the building’s elevator. Trump failed to read the fine print, and had no one to blame but himself.

Which is exactly the opposite of what he had wanted. Trump aimed to narrowly lose to Hillary, so he could blame the crooked media for his underserved misfortune. This is the role he has perfected in the media for decades. It was the role he was born to play.

I can picture him scheming with Roger Ailes and Bill Shine, two Fox News executives fired for sexual improprieties. Together, they could take over Fox News or launch a competing network. Bill O’Reilly, similarly deposed, would be their headline star, after Trump himself.

He must have been envisioning constant access to the airwaves to question every move made by President Hillary and Obama before her, without ever offering better ideas. Indeed, that describes pretty well how he spends his days, neglecting the job he inadvertently won.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Life Lessons: What Would Sabrina Do?

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks’ phenom guard, has collected more accolades than any trophy case can hold — PAC-12 Player of the Year, NCAA All-American, 2019 West Region Tournament Most Valuable Player, etcetera, etcetera. Many of us will be watching her play this weekend, hoping to see her earn even more hardware. But by Monday, the season will be over and we all — Sabrina included — will have to resume our lives. What life lessons can we learn from Sabrina?

Carve multiple paths to success.

Sabrina is seldom the tallest or the strongest or the quickest player on the court, but no player in collegiate history has combined scoring, rebounding, and passing better. If she returns for her senior year, she will likely double the next best player in NCAA history — men or women — for racking up ten or more points, rebounds, and assists in the same game. When Sabrina is prevented from scoring, she simply contributes more in other ways.

Each of us is good at something. Some of us excel at more than one thing. But getting good at multiple things can make you as unstoppable as Sabrina.

Help others succeed by sharing.

Whether she’s driving for the basket or surveying the court for a last-second shot, Sabrina is always watching for a teammate who is positioned well to score. She has a habit of looking over her shoulder when leading a fast break, checking for a teammate who may have an easier path to the basket.

You may have a neighbor or family member who can succeed with just a little help from you. Give them that chance and enjoy the success you’ve helped to create.

Help where it will make a difference.

I’ve watched Sabrina during warm-ups and after games and I can tell you that she never stops surveying the situation in front of her. She uses the same skill to find the young girls who want a signature or a smile and a high-five. She invests her attention where she believes it will make the biggest difference.

Eugene has a rich tapestry of non-profit organizations. Many rely on volunteers and donations. Keep an eye out for how you can help those who are doing the work you care most about.

Do your best, and have fun doing it.

Sabrina is a serious player, but she plays loose. During the rare moments when she’s on the bench, she never stops cheering for her teammates. She even tried scoring from the bench recently. Nobody ever said you can’t have fun and still be taken seriously, except maybe the referee who whistled Sabrina’s infraction against Portland State.

Enjoy the moment, but don’t live in it.

If Sabrina has a single defining characteristic, it’s her ambition. She’s constantly looking for ways to improve, for new goals to achieve. We could use a little boost of that same Vitamin A here. Sabrina may soak up a moment of celebration, but she uses every congratulation as fuel to reach her next goal. Every accomplishment earns you a brief pause in the action, to be followed quickly by, “What’s next?”

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Maddest March Mental Meanderings

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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Fifth Friday footnotes, follow-ups and far-flung fripperies:

  • Beginning with storm clean-up and ending with expected and unexpected basketball successes, have we ever had a March together with more Madness?
  • (Maybe the 2016 Pussy Hat Parade, but that was a different sort of march.)
  • During the storms, I wished I was back in school — just so I wouldn’t have to go.
  • Judging from my Facebook feed from a month ago, we really like our electricity.
  • I went to a bad circus. It featured a couple balancing their checkbook, two untamed cats, and a swordfish swallower.
  • If people believe you’ve done something on purpose, you’ll get away with it. Every time.
  • Change never comes easily. “How things are” uses its status to keep its quo.
  • Remind me again how a coin laundry differs from money laundering.
  • When was the last time you saw anything wreak anything but havoc or revenge? (I’ll wait.)
  • When you’ve tried everything and there are no good answers, what you’re probably looking at is a bad question.
  • Chronological bigotry is still bigotry. We may know better now, but we must not conspire to erase those times when we didn’t.
  • Helpful hint: If they didn’t charge you for the product or service you’re using, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
  • We wanted freedom (from constraints, consequences, and other people), but what we got was loneliness.
  • I’ll die knowing God loves me if I never have to do a book tour. (I’m bettering my chances by not writing a book.)
  • Patriarchal marriage and animal husbandry: compare and contrast. Go.
  • It sounds strange to say it, but pacifists are often activists.
  • “Low aims are worse than failures.”
  • When we made a verb out of “money,” we started monetizing everything in sight. Now that we’ve begun using “adult” as a verb, is that good?
  • The shorthand for the upcoming 5th Generation wireless connection makes the improvement seem incremental. 5G should be only 25 percent better than 4G, right? Not true.
  • All things being equal, it’s good to remember they never are.
  • If the 2020 campaign becomes “I’m mad” (on the right) versus “I’m sorry” (on the left), those who are mad are gonna win. (I’m sorry.)
  • Near-boiling pots fascinate me.
  • Has history relied on war and famine to flush its social toxins, like fires maintain a healthy forest?
  • “Hate doesn’t hurt who you think it does.”
  • British pollsters use better words. A recent survey about one Brexit solution found 60 percent of liberals delighted, 8 percent pleased and 14 percent relieved. Conservatives: 58 percent betrayed, 15 percent angry and 6 percent disappointed.
  • Make your world a little bit better. The world will get better only in little bits.
  • Spring is here. “Hoist the Moist!”
  • “Semi-retired” now seems to mean you have no job and you’re living in your truck.
  • Writers will give you the quote off their back.
  • We should have recognized that subdivisions might lead to loneliness. Who would choose to be divided and then subdivided?
  • Everyone knows that darkness comes earlier in the winter, but did you know it also gets dark quicker? It takes less time in winter to go from light to dark, and vice versa.
  • I thought I caught my blender and garbage disposal conspiring, but it was just a big mix-up.
  • Now that we’re knitting or buying sweaters for our dogs in winter, how long before we decide it’s inhumane to make them walk barefoot?
  • I can’t help it. Whenever I see somebody renting a DVD from a Redbox kiosk, I look at them a little longer than I should, hoping to divine the meaning of their retro ways.
  • We sell stuff on craigslist so we can meet people we wouldn’t otherwise.
  • When robots come for us, first they’ll take control of our money.
  • Whenever I’m beside myself, the room feels suddenly crowded.
  • Anything that purrs seems female to me. Barking always seems male. Am I alone on this?
  • Every society has relied on two things to take care of its elders: family and pneumonia.
  • The future would be brighter if we didn’t have to wait for it.
  • Confession: I don’t know the protocol concerning bathroom stalls for the handicapped. Are they reserved for exclusive use, like parking spaces, or available to all?
  • Next time life seems too ordinary (it happens to all of us), I have two suggestions. Discover a new use for baking soda — that miraculous powder hiding in your kitchen. And replace your bed pillow.
  • Who took the pepper out of my salt-and-pepper beard?
  • I can’t even. (Finish a sentence, apparently….)
  • We all share the same primal fear: To be forgotten, but not gone.
  • Sadness is undervalued. Sadness puts the world in slow motion so you can see more of it, or see it more deeply.
  • Making a mark is harder than making a remark.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Joe’s Candidacy: Biden His Time

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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After the 2016 presidential election, I pledged never to vote for another Baby Boomer. Boomers have prevailed in the last seven, almost always beating other boomers. We’ve overstayed our welcome on the stage.

I’m glad the Democratic field includes plenty of young talent. One of them might catch fire in the months ahead. Until that happens, I’m reserving my right to keep my promise in the opposite direction.

Pre-boomer Bernie Sanders might be able to build a movement beneath his candidacy, pitting himself against a Republican candidate who has also shown an ability to energize his political base. Unfortunately for the country, neither has shown much ongoing interest in attracting centrists.

I’m afraid a Sanders candidacy would be foiled by the electoral college. He could win by huge margins in a few large states like New York and California, but lose too many other states by small margins. Democrats have won the popular vote and lost the election this way too often.

Joe Biden, another member of the generation before boomers, might be another story. He hasn’t yet announced his candidacy, but all signs point to him joining the race for the White House for a third, last time. He would be an attractive candidate in the Midwestern states that Hillary neglected before the election, and Trump’s policies have neglected since.

A Biden campaign would be stronger if he did two things immediately that no modern presidential candidate has done. First, he should select a running mate who is younger than 55 — not a boomer — who will excite the activist wing of the Democratic party.

Running mates typically are announced shortly before the summer political convention, just months before the general election. That tradition may have outlasted its usefulness. Campaigning as a ticket across the country for 18 months would break through with a clear message or generational transition.

Biden’s second innovation would strengthen his first. He should pledge to serve only one term and to endorse his running mate in the 2024 election. This will dramatically change the job description for the Vice President, in a way that only a former vice president could do.

Youthful presidential candidates more typically tap an older political veteran as their running mate. Barack Obama chose Biden for exactly this reason, following the lead of George W. Bush picking Dick Cheney, and John Kennedy running with Lyndon Johnson.

Flip that model on its head. Give a 2024 candidate four years of job training before they vie to take that seat behind the Resolute desk.

The 2020 election will involve some very difficult conversations, for liberals and centrists alike. Everybody wants the county to move forward. A new generation of leaders must emerge. But many Americans also desperately want to undo the results of our 2016 election. Many want a do-over.

Biden represents a unique opportunity to rewind, reset, undo the last four years. Only an elder statesman could give the world confidence that America still knows how to correct its mistakes. But Biden could do more. He could prepare us for a brighter future, aiding his running mate’s 2024 campaign by promising to train her.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Oregon Explores Early Voting

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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Should Oregon lower the age for voter participation to 16? The most common argument I hear against the change is that 16-year-olds are still children. That might turn out to be the strongest argument in its favor.

Most 16-year-olds are still in high school and almost all of them are still living with their parents. Two years later, when they reach the current minimum voting age, most of these young people hope to have moved out of their childhood home, either to attend college or to begin their working lives.

When would society prefer to introduce this important privilege and responsibility of citizenship? Shortly after a person has left home for the first time and is completely on their own, surrounded by peers who are in the same predicament? Or while they’re taking history classes in high school, attending mandatory school assemblies, and are still under the watchful eyes of their parents?

Habits that form early are the hardest habits to break. Abundant research shows that voting is like smoking in this way. If you become a smoker while you are still assembling your self-image, you tend to stay a smoker forever, or until some dramatic life change intervenes. The same appears to be true about voting. If a teenager considers him or herself a voter, the habit and self-image will reinforce one another forever.

Will teenagers make mature decisions? Not always, but the chances are better when they are being watched by those who can cut their allowance or give them a failing grade. We don’t seem hesitant to eat a burger flipped, or to accept change counted by a 16-year-old. Supervision allows order to be maintained.

Those who hold jobs pay taxes. Give them a share in societal decision-making. They might not make the same choices as we would, but they will differ earnestly. They may do more research on ballot issues than many older people. Whenever a 16-year-old drives a car, every driver on that road shares the risks caused by their inclusion. Why should society in general be any different?

I can’t think of a better way to revitalize how history and rhetoric are taught in the schools. The lessons and techniques would suddenly seem much less abstract. Citizenship itself would become less a concept than a practice. Imagine how real our school funding debates would become when students still in those schools had a voice on Election Day.

Take it one step further. How many parents of wide-eyed teenagers would suddenly feel an urgency to vote that they hadn’t felt before? They might bone up on issues for dinner table debates with their children. They may vote in order to zero out their own child’s idealism. That would still be more empowering than non-voting — for everyone involved.

Empowerment without supervision is what we should be trying to reduce, especially for teenagers. Watch a group of college freshmen struggling with ready access to alcohol and tell me their habits wouldn’t be healthier if they began when parental supervision was still firmly in place.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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What I Learned By Being Late to Church

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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I learned a lesson last month by being late to church. I was housesitting for friends and another friend was preaching at a church where he regularly volunteers. I used Google Maps to estimate my commute and organized my morning around a timely departure.

I read the paper, drank my morning cup of warmth, fed the cat, took out the trash, then started the car. Google Maps guided me out of the city and onto the highway, projecting that I would arrive at my friend’s church 15 minutes before the service began. Everything was going exactly according to plan, until it didn’t.

I had forgotten to turn off the tea kettle burner. After my initial panic, I had three quick thoughts. First, if I had been at home, I would have known neighbors who could be imposed on to enter my house and turn off the stove. Second, how long before our smart houses can turn off a stove on its own?

And third, why doesn’t mapping software include an undo button? Certainly, I was not the first person to head off somewhere before realizing I had reason to return to where I started. As it was, I fumbled with my phone to reenter my originating address, seeking help to return to my friends’ house as efficiently as possible. Time was suddenly of the essence.

So much for arriving early! So much for everything going exactly according to plan! My friend doesn’t carry a phone, so all I could do was rehearse my apology in the car as I drove.

I returned to the house, turned off the stove, got back in the car, and reentered the church address. Google Maps told me I would be arriving at 10:42. It also told me something else that turned out to be more important. I knew I would be twelve minutes late to church, but I also knew that there was nothing I could do about it.

Even if I drove recklessly, I was still going to be ten or eleven minutes late. So it became obvious that there was no reason to risk getting a ticket or causing an accident. The Google gods had decreed my fate. It was right there on the screen, staring back at me.

That was the surprise. An unexpected calm came over me. My general anxiety — “I’m going to be late!” was replaced with a very specific disappointment — “I will miss the first 15 minutes of the service.” Given this precise data, I calculated that I probably wouldn’t miss the sermon, which was really the point of the trip. I relaxed and worked on my apology.

Of course it all worked out fine. That was never really in doubt. But my morning epiphany was as profound as any I might have gotten from my friend’s sermon. Anxiety is rooted in what we don’t know, and one of the most common things we don’t know is how much delay will be caused by an unexpected obstacle.

We now have tools to estimate many of those delays, lowering our anxiety. They haven’t arrived a moment too soon.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Newspaper Habit Can Keep You Fit

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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You should read a newspaper every morning, especially if you are busy. It’s good to know what’s going on in the world, but that’s not how you benefit most from this daily habit.

Open a broadsheet newspaper and you are confronted with roughly a half dozen articles vying for your attention. Headlines, photos with captions, charts, pull quotes, capsule summaries — what will your eye? Turn the page and the process repeats.

You know one thing, first and foremost. Your time is limited. You cannot read everything. A typical Sunday edition of the New York Times has more words than two full-length novels. If you can read two novels every Sunday before brunch, you have my respect.

Most of us can’t do that. So we adapt. We complete the daily exercise without ever reading the complete newspaper — something less than every word on every page. We read some articles thoroughly, scan others, skip some others. We may read a headline and start an article before deciding the topic doesn’t interest us — or doesn’t interest us enough.

We consider certain features as daily necessities and others we never read at all, unless we’re shopping for a used car or honing our bridge game. There may be entire sections of a newspaper that we never open.

Perform this ritual every day for years and certain patterns will emerge. You’ll learn the rhythm that suits you best, always knowing you’re free to mix things up any time you choose. If you complete this exercise daily, you’ll be consistently reading and learning about things you didn’t know would interest you.

That last part is also true for people who listen to their morning news on the radio or watch it on TV. But only newspaper readers are actively choosing where their attention will alight on each page, repeating the exercise over and over, adjusting pace, standards and strategies until the allotted time is up or they’ve reached the last page.

This develops a life skill beyond literacy. It’s not the reading; it’s the choosing — page after page, day after day, always with time constraints, never reading every word. You’re strengthening your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain where planning complex tasks and moderating social behavior takes place. Your brain is flexing its decision-making muscles, performing what’s called the “executive function.”

You need these skills everywhere. Collecting your things as you head out the door, driving a car, navigating a parking lot. In the grocery aisle, you’re comparing products and prices to your list, assembling recipes as you go — considering budget, tastes, schedules, storage, and more. It’s all executive function.

Accomplished executives will tell you that one-third of their salary is earned by the projects they complete. The other two-thirds is earned by discerning which projects they shouldn’t begin.

Newspaper reading is no different. Which two-thirds of the paper can you choose not to read, while still retaining the satisfaction of completing it every day? Because that same executive will tell you something else. No matter how completely you finish a project, tomorrow there will be more to do.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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The Children Are Getting Restless

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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Don’t look now, but the children are getting restless. News reports from Eugene, Washington and New York City show young people are taking matters into their own hands. Combatting climate change is becoming their issue.

Eugene’s so-called Climate Kids case, Juliana v. United States, was featured last weekend on “60 Minutes.” Millions of people now know about these 21 young people who are suing their government for failing to preserve life, liberty, and property for future generations.

Lead attorney Julia Olson is confident that her young clients will win their case on the facts to be presented at trial. The federal government doesn’t seem to disagree, since it is doing everything possible to prevent the trial from happening.

Indeed, the federal government has already granted most of the facts that Olson’s plaintiffs allege. Yes, the federal government has known for 50 years about the possible catastrophic effects of climate change. Yes, the government acknowledges that these changes are caused by subsidizing and burning fossil fuels. And yes, things are worse for the planet now than they’ve been for millions of years.

Those admissions have come before U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken convenes her courtroom. You can see why government officials want to avoid a trial.

But there are other stories popping up around the country. Young people around the world are using the same logic, if not the same strategies. Dozens of protesters were arrested recently when they demanded a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The protest included 20 Kentucky high school students and children as young as seven.

Stephen O’Hanlon, organizer of the Sunrise Movement, explained it to reporters this way. “We want to put senators on notice that if they don’t put us before the interests of oil and gas, we’re going to remember that when it’s our turn to vote them out.” He pledged an “army of young people” to make their case on Capitol Hill.

“Young people … are going to be the most impacted by climate change,” O’Hanlon said, “and it’s morally reprehensible for politicians to not take young voices seriously on this issue. They’re the ones who are going to be affected by it — not Mitch McConnell.”

Then there’s 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor. The seventh-grade New Yorker goes to the United Nations every week, demanding action on climate change. She’s coordinating a worldwide School Strike 4 Climate on March 15, urging kids to skip school that day to protest.

Villasenor became a climate activist only a few months ago, after her family felt the effects of wildfires in Northern California. That alerted Villasenor to the problem, but it was a 15-year-old from Sweden who showed her how she could organize a response.

“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes,” Greta Thunberg proclaimed at a global climate change conference in December. “We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Are we there yet? No, but impatient young people seem ready to do the driving.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

Links:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/juliana-versus-united-states-the-climate-change-lawsuit-that-could-stop-the-u-s-government-from-supporting-fossil-fuels-60-minutes/

https://www.sunrisemovement.org

https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com

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Weathering Adversity Brings Us Together

April 5th, 2019 by dk
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Why do people treat one another better during and after a storm? And how can that tendency become our reason for hopefulness?

Most of us benefited from, participated in, or at least observed a sudden surge of kindness between strangers during the snowstorms we had last week. H.J. Lindley wrote a letter to the editor to thank an “angel person … who shoveled my walkway from my front steps to the curb.”

Whoever helped Lindley did their deed quietly and anonymously — but not uncommonly. You could see similar good deeds on literally every street corner.

Even strangers passing on sidewalks are more apt to engage one another after events like last week. “How about this weather?” If you’ve ever been camping during a huge storm, this all seems familiar. It’s not uncommon to share warmth and comfort with neighbors after a good rain.

You have dry firewood, but your matches got soaked. Somebody else has a lighter and a few cans of beans. Add a guitar or some kazoos. Presto, it’s Kumbaya around the campfire — perfect strangers sharing a perfect meal. It wouldn’t have happened — or it wouldn’t have happened so naturally — without the storm.

Our “stranger danger” reflex yields to something deeper when a calamity strikes. Our more primal instinct emerges to help one another, or to ask for help if we need it. Viewed against a formidable adversary, we’re suddenly on the same team, sharing the same fate, working toward a common goal.

During normal times, we focus on the differences between ourselves. But when the skies open up, or the power lines snap, or a tree falls across the street, we react to the adversity by watching out for one another. Catastrophe recontextualizes relationships.

Historically and biologically speaking, what we call “normal” has been anything but. Life has been a constant struggle for most of humanity, most of the time. Our most natural reactions — to shovel a walkway, to write a letter to the editor — make us better, both individually and collectively.

As the Democratic field for the 2020 presidential race takes shape, many hopefuls intend to highlight the challenges ahead posed by climate change. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee plans to put the issue at the center of his campaign. As Register-Guard columnist Bob Doppelt has been saying for years, the climate crisis can become an opportunity, if our leaders frame it that way.

Climate change has been a slow-moving catastrophe for decades, but now it’s appearing in more dramatic ways: wildfires, storm surges, droughts and deluges. It won’t be long before these isolated effects begin to converge in our experience and imagination, revealing its scope and singularity.

Then we’ll need leaders who can tell us which way to turn. It won’t be hard to persuade humanity to pull together. We’ve seen recently and locally how naturally that can occur.

Large-scale adversity can motivate us to do great things. Even our modest efforts can have great effects when we join together in collective action. Whether we contribute a shovel, or a pen, or a can of beans — when we share, there’s always been enough.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Huge Snowstorms Deserve Nicknames

March 1st, 2019 by dk
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I’ve forgotten which winter storm first endeared me to Washington, DC. It was either “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse.” It doesn’t really matter which. Washington gives its major storms nicknames, and that’s really the point of this column.

So if you’re pressed for time, you can skip the rest. But you’re not pressed for time, because our own storms are limiting what you can — or feel obligated to — do. That’s also my point.

We’re a college town, through and through. Many of us wish we were back in school this week, just so we wouldn’t have to go. Snow days gave us our first taste of liberation. It tasted like hot chocolate. Sometimes it still does.

I grew up in Chicago, where snowstorms were common, but snow days were not. We gave prodigious storms names like “January” or “Last Tuesday” — not very clever. So it was new for me when a monster storm with a nickname descended on Washington, DC about a decade ago.

The storm stopped everything — or almost everything. All work stopped. Traffic stopped too, which is the closest Washington gets to a miracle. We all had iPhones and Twitter — both new to us. We wanted to use them. Word got around of a flash mob snowball fight at Dupont Circle. I went.

I stood on a park bench to take a video of the scene. A snowball from behind hit my phone cleanly out of my upstretched hands. Suddenly, I was part of the scramble, calling for help to find my (white!) iPhone in the drifts around me. It had disappeared.

There were many twists and turns to the story, but an hour later, I used a borrowed phone to call my number. A young man named Jerod was in line at McDonalds with a woman he had recently met.

“Your phone is ringing,” she said.

“That’s not my ringtone,” he replied.

“Then your pocket is ringing.” He answered the phone that had fallen into his army jacket during the melee.

I raced to McDonalds to meet the man with my inadvertently intercepted iPhone. He wouldn’t accept a reward. He wouldn’t even let me pay for their hot chocolate. Snowstorms and hot chocolate just seem to bring out the best in people.

It was days later when I realized that the video I was taking had captured the whole thing. The snowball fight, carefully panning the scene. Jerod entering a corner of the screen. Then the view topples and turns, going mostly dark. But the audio continues, featuring my plaintive wails. “Has anyone seen my phone? Please help me find my phone!” It was all captured from the dark safety of Jerod’s puffy pocket.

You have stories from these storms. Shoveling with a garden hoe. A modernized snowman. Barbecuing meat rescued from an unpowered freezer. Glamping around candles and natural light. Learning your neighbor’s name, after all these years.

Certain things can be done differently when they need to be. Anything that’s different is bound to make a good story. And the stories will last longer if the precipitating event had been given a memorable nickname.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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